Page images

political condition of their country into their deep consideration. Tell them that they should address themselves to the Legislature, and implore a remedy for these frightful evils. Tell them to call upon the men, in whose hands the destiny of this great empire is placed, to adopt a system of conciliation and of peace, and to apply to Ireland the great canon of political morality, which has been so powerfully expressed by the poet-pacis imponere morem.' Our manners, our habits, our laws must be changed. The evil is to be plucked out at the root. The cancer must be cut out of the breast of the country. Let it not be imagined that any measure of disfranchisement, that any additional penalty, will afford a remedy. Things have been permitted to advance to a height from which they cannot be driven back.

Protestants, awake to a sense of your condition. Look round

you. What have you seen during this election? Enough to make you feel that this is not mere local excitation, but that seven millions of Irish people are completely arrayed and organised. That which you behold in Clare, you would behold, under similar circumstances, in every county in the kingdom. Did you mark our discipline, our subordination, our good order, and that prophetic tranquillity which is far more terrible than any ordinary storm? You have seen sixty thousand men under our command, and not a hand was raised, and not a forbidden word was uttered in that amazing multitude. You have beheld an example of our power in the almost miraculous sobriety of the people. Their lips have not touched that infuriating beverage to which they are so much attached, and their habitual propensity vanished at our command. What think you of all this? Is it meet and wise to leave us armed with such a dominion? Trust us not with it; strip us of this appalling despotism; annihilate us by concession; extinguish us with peace; disarray us by equality; instead of angry slaves, make us contented citizens; if you do not, tremble for the result."

The Catholic Association was a marvellous body and marvellous was the genius that formed and fashioned and kept it together. There never was a political body so fitly representing the country on behalf of which it professed to act. While disclaiming a representative character or delegated functions of any kind, in compliance with a very stringent law; and comprising the whole nation in theory though in substance it was a Dublin Committee; the whole country obeyed it punctually and uncomplainingly, for the simple reason that it did in reality represent the country; and that the latter did really consider itself bound in conscience by the decisions of the central body. But for all that we are not to forget of what materials that body was composed, what diversity of tempers, what repugnant counsels, what antagonistic elements of every kind it unavoidably embraced, and how effectually O'Connell


kept them in harmonious action by the exercise of a vigorous and despotic repression which he had nevertheless the art to disguise as liberty, and make amiable as such. He had to deal with a people that had often been unanimous but never harmonious; whose individuals, unless under pressure of the severest description, exhibited repulsion the moment they were brought into contact; whose history is a homily upon the evils of division, and who if left to themselves would certainly never have united. And yet for forty years by the bare force of his will, without any outward appliance of power, through the instrumentality of that association or some of its offshoots, he ruled that people with the simplicity, the unity, and the dispatch of absolute authority, wielded it as a single wea pon, achieved with it victories of the most unlikely kind, and but that the famine, his own decline and death supervened, was on the eve of victories more astonishing yet; for had the revolution of 1848 found O'Connell in the plenitude of his influence, and the Irish people in the robustness of its strength, the multitude of its numbers and the compactness of its organization such as he had lately ruled it; we should have seen the legislative union substantially if not formally repealed, or else changes in the constitution and government of Ireland so radical and organic as the wildest speculation could not dream of now.

The Catholic Association was the model of every political association that followed or in all probability that is destined to follow in these countries; but the failure of the most powerful of them all, the Repeal Association, and of the abortive swarms that succeeded it, is a proof that however excellent the instrument, it required the master's hand to deal with it. The bow of Ulysses was stubborn and unmanageable to the stoutest of the pretenders, and events have proved that the combined and harmonious action of the Irish people depended on their leader, for no association, however small or sectional, has been able to keep together in its integrity for six months since O'Connell's death. In the working of that mighty engine, the Association as it is emphatically called, Sheil, we have already observed, held the second place. Mr. M'Cullagh therefore, it seems to us, might with advantage have gone more at large into the history of that body, for its history is inseparably connected with that of Sheil, and we think too that had he made more copious extracts from his speeches previous to

1829, the effect would have been more striking and the interest more sustained; but everything considered we have reason to be satisfied with Mr. M'Cullagh's labours. He has written in a friendly spirit the history of one who took a foremost part in a struggle that was national in the best sense of the word, and who belonged to literature no less than to Ireland. He has succeeded to a great extent in vindicating his memory not so much from direct imputation, (a comparatively easy task) but from the obscure and impalpable hostility of what are called impressions, that offer nothing to grapple with, and are consequently almost invincible. He has caught the features of a peculiar and interesting epoch, he has given them permanence, and set before us a career which we should not wish to see emulated generally, but in which there is something to imitate, much to admire, a great deal to excuse, and many an instructive lesson. He has written faithfully, moderately, and with animation. The work has been generally successful in England, and we wish it could be said, that some of the principles for which the distinguished subject of the biogra phy contended were still as vigorous and popular as formerly, but we fear it is not so.

From causes, or alleged causes, into which it is not our province nor our wish to enter, the principles of rational liberty, whether civil or religious, seem to have lost ground in England. Unless it be looked to in time, the main struggle will be not between Conservatives and Liberals, but between obstructives and levellers; between those who resist all reform and those who are the enemies of any rule; and as to religious liberty, the various acceptations of the word as supplied from public meetings and parliamentary debates, will inevitably be the death of future scholiasts, when English becomes a learned tongue; and Mr. Macaulay's Traveller from New Zealand takes his stand upon the broken arch of London Bridge, to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's.

Meanwhile, according to our view of Sheil's life and times, they should be a warning to men of genius, who either through modesty or faintheartedness, contract the horizon of their ambition, bartering future greatness for small but early advancement, and satisfied with the odiyor Te Qihov Ts, when a little longanimity might elevate them to eminence, the ascent to which is always less steep than it appears. How many intended for different things, fascinated by the glitter of a

showy appointment, or charmed by the distance that lends enchantment to a third rate embassy, give up their own future, and perhaps a future still more important. The obvious duty of those who have at heart peace and civilization properly understood, is not to film the sores of the commonwealth, but to cut deeply and cautiously; not to compromise their principles, but not to exaggerate them; not to let their ambition overleap itself, but still less to qualify and dwarf it; above all things, when reasonably conscious of worth, and qualified by services to resent subaltern advancement as more odious than exclusion, and condescending patronage as the most intolerable variety of insolence-to have faith in the triumph of right, but not to set faith above works; and whatever they may win by concession, never to look upon any thing as quite secure that they have not been able to enforce. If there were somewhat of this spirit in all parties, we should have better hope for the country. It is hardly to be expected in Ireland, where public opinion never perhaps had a secure footing; but we have at least this consolation in reading Sheil's memoirs, that whatever be the faults of the Irish people, and they are many; whatever be their follies, and they are not to be denied; the country that is susceptible of so perfect an organization, and so uniform an action as were communicated to it by O'Connell and Sheil, will always be capable of great things under great men. But it would be a fatal mistake to trust to the turning up of a great man. Ireland must for years to come, and probably always, be more under the dominion of personal influence than other portions of the Empire, and while a heavy responsibility is thus thrown upon those whoever they may be from whom that influence emanates, and particularly upon her governors; it will be all the more necessary for those who are conscious of worth, to cultivate in themselves the qualities of self-respect and self-reliance, that will enable them to exercise, with diguity and effect, whatever influence they may derive from high position or commanding talents. The man that can save us from our own contempt will be a great deliverer; for people seldom are wrong when they despise themselves, and they cannot earn their own respect without commanding that of others.

ART. IX.-REFORMATORY SCHOOLS FOR IRELAND. Thirty-Third Report of the Inspectors-General on the General State of the Prisons of Ireland, 1854. With Appendices. Presented to Both Houses of Parliament, by Command of Her Majesty. Dublin: Thom and Sons, 1855.

I am of opinion, writes one who was intimately acquainted with his subject, and who to great experience added the earnestness of a Christian and the thoughtfulness of a philosopher, "That most effectually to carry out the objects of imprisonment, and that at the least cost to the country, and with the nearest approach to justice in the apportionment of the cost, it is requisite that the whole power and duty of providing and regulating prisons be placed in the hands of Government."* Of the wisdom and truth of this opinion expressed by Mr: Frederic Hill no more patent proof could be afforded than that furnished by the able, careful, and elaborate Report before us. Wherever good can be traced it springs from Government intervention; where blunderings and errors produce evils, all have their origin in those fruitful sources of mischiefGrand Jury stupidity and the incapacity of local management.

Commencing with that important topic, the number of criminals in all Prisons on certain days in each year, and taking the period of five years, from January 1st, 1850, to January 1st, 1855, we find a gradual but steady decrease. Thus, in January 1850, the numbers were 10,967; whilst in January 1855, they had declined to 5,080, being a decrease, in the latter year, of 675 from the year 1854 and from the year 1850, of 5,887.

The following table will show the abstract, distributed into Provinces, of the Committals during the years 1853 and 1854, with the sexes:

See "Crime, its Amount, Causes, and Remedies." By Frederic Hill, Barrister-at-Law, Late Inspector of Prisons. London: Murray. 1853, p. 368.

« PreviousContinue »